Three vital steps for social media reputational risk management

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Much has been said about the risks that social media pose, but fail to use it to engage with your customers and you could cause irreparable damage to your organisation’s reputation.

According to Gartner, by 2014 organisations that refuse to communicate with customers by social media will face the same level of wrath from customers as those that ignore today's basic expectation that they will respond to emails and phone calls.

As customer expectations rapidly change, it has been predicted that responding to inquiries via social media channels will be the new minimum level of response expected.

“The dissatisfaction stemming from failure to respond via social channels can lead to up to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers,” said Gartner analyst Carol Rozwell.

“It’s crucial that organisations implement approaches to handling social media now. The effort involved in addressing social media commentary is not good cause to ignore relevant comments or solvable issues.”

But, as not all social media are aimed directly at organisations, Gartner recommends that they develop a framework to deal with social media commentary on relevant topics. The framework must complement how an organisation deals with a direct enquiry received through social channels and should address whether a response is warranted, who should respond if it is, and what action is necessary following any response.

To respond or not?

Social media leaders must develop a process for deciding whether to respond to public or client-prompted social engagements, claims Gartner. A person or team needs to have the power to decide whether a comment is relevant and whether the issue presented is solvable, or whether there are positive dimensions to what is being said that should be recorded.

It’s also important to accept that it’s impracticable and counterproductive to respond to everything. For example, if a comment is clearly inflammatory and unsolvable, it is usually best not to respond at all. However, if a person is an existing customer logging a harsh but legitimate complaint, the issue must be addressed publicly, promptly and within the same media it was made.

“Generally the best practice is to acknowledge the issue on social media, but to move attempts to resolve the issue offline.” said Rozwell.

Who should respond?

Every organisation needs a set of rules to define who should deal with different kinds of comment, and a process for deciding how a response will be posted to social media. If no one has been identified to determine this set of rules, that is the first action to take, suggests Gartner.

Then the designated social media leader or team must decide how to categorise comments. For example, some comments about a general issue may simply require monitoring and assessment before a general response is issued, whereas others may require an immediate and personal response and further monitoring.

It’s not enough simply to decide which people responds to what — the act of responding must be made part of their day job or it will be overlooked. It can be challenging to promote this shift in mindset, and it could require changes to performance metrics and job roles.

We’ve responded, now what?

Some organisations have implemented the first stages of a social media engagement process, but they make the mistake of treating engagements as ad hoc. While over half of organisations monitor social media, Gartner has found that only 23% collect and analyse data. This means that most organisations do not keep records of interactions occurring on social media and do not keep social profiles for people they have engaged with.

“It’s important not only to keep records of individual conversations, but constantly to analyze the interactions to see what insights can be gleaned from them,” said Rozwell.

To ensure they are not discarding the valuable information being generated through social media, organisations must create processes for perpetuating customer engagements and for sharing social knowledge throughout the organisation. Developing a means for acting on social data will provide a competitive advantage by providing exceptional customer experience through increasingly significant social channels.

Rozwell suggests that organisations do three things:

  1. Participate: It’s important that organisations don’t let a fear of someone saying something bad about them stop them from participating in social medial
  2. Don’t assume all comments require the same level of attention: Develop an appropriate response for the different types of interaction your business faces.
  3. Plan for an increase in social commentary and adapt communications practices to cope: This will require changes to job descriptions, performance metrics and business processes.

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  • Ellie D on 11/09/2012 3:02:59 PM

    Dont get me wrong, I am all for social media; it is fast and you can reach the masses. BUT.... are we forgetting the side of society that, experts tell us, is growing in leaps and bounds and who may not be into SM....? the elderly. We must recognise that there is a side to our community that may be left behind if we do not ensure organisations continue to make effort to engage with them. Since the ATMs were introduced our business community continues to 'tel us' they are improving the way they deliver services because "this is what our customers want" and improving means to continue moving away from personalised service in favour of ATMs and online services. Now social media whilst a fantastic and powerful tool may become the last nail in the coffin if we are not careful. I would like to hear from the SM experts how they are managing this.

  • cksyme on 5/09/2012 12:11:52 AM

    All these of these can be handled in a social media triage response plan. Great info here--especially #1. Not enough people ask, "should we respond?"

  • adel alkhatib on 30/08/2012 5:17:32 AM

    this such thing must be adapted and stipulated in the policies and procedure too.

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